From Boot Camp to Board Meeting

I couldn’t wait to get out of high school and enlist. I was probably one of the few kids who turned the volume up when the Marines promos or “Army of One” spots would air.

A week after graduation, I went to my local recruitment office. I became a leatherneck – a Marine. The next years flew by in a flurry of training, and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. I went from 18 to 26 and become a full staff sergeant.

I also married my beautiful wife and became a father. It’s very rare to be that young and satisfied with life. I knew I’d met one of my dreams, and that part of my life was coming to a close. I decided to not re-enlist after my third deployment, and make my way to the civilian life. I wanted to enter business as I have an outgoing and aggressive personality and needed to explore new avenues.

However, the first few weeks of applying and filling out employment forms left me feeling sucker punched. Why? I was a rifleman and my physical quantifiable skills were limited to the realm of warfare. I could clean a rifle, pack an 80 pound load, survive in harsh climates, and lead a squad into battle.

When it came to filling out the line of “relevant experience”, I felt my mind go numb and my palms sweat. I’d thought I’d faced tougher situations, why was one 8 inch line daunting me? Did I have to start all the way at square one again?

It was my mentor and former captain that helped me find my way. I was talking to him on the phone one night, after a long stint of applications with no call back. He told me one simple sentence that changed everything, “remember your training.” No, it wasn’t some kind of Jedi wisdom. He was telling me I already had the skills to go after what I wanted. Three military qualities in particular were especially helpful in the search for a civilian career:

Discipline.

Another helpful quality I probably wouldn’t have if not for my Marine training is Discipline. In the corps, what you think is discipline is stripped from you and an exquisite, equalized, standardized, and perfected version of discipline is put in its place.

It kept me on task and got things done in an efficient and timely matter. It kept me always working towards my new goal of a good career. Distractions are the poisonous honey of the job applicant, so sweet yet so detrimental.

It seemed so tempting to just exercise, or clean, or fix things around the house, but that wouldn’t put food on my daughter’s table. After a few days, just about anything seemed preferable to job searching but I just kept on keeping on. You just don’t stop going till it’s done – and then you give it some more. Now that I’ve got a job, my discipline from years of military teaches me to follow the chain of command and integrity in my workforce.

Dedication.

Dedication to the mission is what pulls you through when the odds are stacked against you. It’s what keeps you moving ahead when you’re on your last hour. I kept pushing out applications, keeping my forward momentum, creating job search accounts online, and scouring my neighborhood, the newspaper, and everywhere else for opportunities. I wanted to enter business, so I took seminars and night courses, training myself just like I would train myself through PT to become the best solider I could be.

Self Awareness.

Self awareness was the difference between survival and the bluntly put “getting blown up”. You had to spot that flash of reflected sniper optics, or the small bit of wire sticking above the sand. I had to take assessment of my skills and be honest.

I knew I could lead, I could think creatively, and I could get a team out of a tight jam. I know so much more about myself and my strengths and weaknesses because of my time in the military. I was able to properly apply myself and my resources in an effective manner to avoid wasting my time and energy on dead ends or lost causes.

Very soon, the change in my mindset was able to land me a great position as a marketing manager. I was short changing myself. There’s a definite need for leathernecks like me in the American work force. Those survival and combat skills translate into qualities of leadership, professionalism, and dedication that any employer looks forward to.

John is an Operation Freedom War veteran and a manager for Airsplat, the nation’s largest retailer of Airsoft Guns including Spring Airsoft Rifles.

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